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WELCOME TO THE WASTELAND

VAULT 101 ENTRANCE
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1004 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.

The brilliant glare of the sun was far brighter than anything Michael had ever experienced, forcing him to shield his face with his hands. When his eyes had finally adjusted, the scene that stood before him struck a nerve as he remembered something his father had said years ago:

"Because, up there, outside the Vault...that's not the life I wanted for you.'

Burnt-out houses, broken pavement, and rubble strewn everywhere were the only sights that now met his eyes - there didn't appear to be any sign of life at all.

[LEVEL UP]

"What the-?"

His body suddenly froze for an instant, then was free. During that brief moment, though, time seemed to come to a standstill, allowing him to pick from 13 different "skills" - and smart as he was, he had 19 "points" to distribute amongst these skills. Then he had to choose a "perk" - some kind of in-bred ability, maybe?

He noticed when he was finished, though, that he felt a little less shy than usual - indeed, his words seemed more...coaxing, somehow. Most notably, though, his medicinal and mechanical knowledge seemed to have improved, as well. He found he could repair his weapons and armor to a somewhat better degree, though still far from perfect.

He shook his head, and returned to focusing on finding his dad. However, it wasn't long before a series of new messages had turned up...

The first message noted that there was some distress signal, far, far to the north - well within the borders of what was once Maryland. It was some guy named Werhner, saying his people were in desperate need of help.

The second message he received was not a signal, but rather a digital postcard of sorts - "Greetings From Point Lookout!" it was titled. Something about a riverboat in the Southeast.

The third message simply said that he could reach "Level 30," whatever that meant, but no other information was given.

The fourth message was another distress signal, also to the Southeast, but was much closer than the "Point Lookout" postcard he got - he decided he'd check it out once he'd finished what needed to be done in Megaton.

The final message he received was the strangest of all. He couldn't make out anything that was being said - it was just guttural noises and shouts, to his ears. Of all the messages, though, it sent chills up his spine - it originated North-Northeast of his position, but he had no intention of venturing to that spot anytime soon, if at all. There was something about this signal - what, exactly, he couldn't put his finger on it - but whatever it was, it was likely in his best interests to stay far, far away from the site.

Well. Looks like there's a lot more to do than just find dad, he thought to himself. I just pray it doesn't take long.

Famous last words?

The only way available to him was forward and downward - through the ruins of Springvale.

As he wandered through the ruins, he heard a faint voice, getting progressively louder - the source was coming from what his HUD identified as an Enclave Eyebot.

"The Enclave?" Mike said to himself, mortified. "Here?"

"Hello, again, sweet America. This is your President, John Henry Eden, speaking."

Mike had heard just about enough of the broadcast, and didn't bother to listen to any more of it. This couldn't be real - the Enclave actually existed?

When Mike was younger, James would tell him stories about the horrible shadow government known as The Enclave - a secret society that was rumored to date back to Pre-War America. It was said they had a hand in almost everything - the government, the military, private contractors, and far, far more than Mike could ever remember. Mike had only thought James had told them as stories just to frighten him as a child - he never knew they were actually real.

It was that moment that Mike set a personal goal aside for him to accomplish...

The Fall of the Enclave.

NEW IN TOWN

SPRINGVALE RUINS
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1031 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.

As Mike continued rummaging amongst the refuse of the decrepit buildings, he noticed a sign that pointed to Megaton. Well, at least he didn't have to look far to start searching for his dad.

First things first, though - cleaning out the ruins of anything that seemed to be of value.

Inside a couple of locked safes, he found something odd - Nuka-Cola Bottle Caps. What the hell are bottle caps doing in a safe? he wondered to himself.

Just across the way, he noticed a Nuka-Cola Machine. Now THAT'S more like it, he thought to himself. Nuka-Cola was one of his favorite things to drink - at least, unlike alcohol, you couldn't get addicted to it. He never did understand why people would intentionally get themselves drunk.

Opening the machine, though, there was something that caught his eye - Quantum. Hmm...well, THAT'S new, he thought to himself. There was something about the blue-glowing bottle that didn't quite settle with him well - he figured he'd better just hold on to the Quantum, rather than drink it. He also decided to not drink any of the 3 regular Nukas, despite how much they beckoned to him - considering that it had been well over 100 years since the machine was used, it was quite likely the Nukas had gone...rather stale.

Before he set off towards Megaton, there was one suitcase that he had yet to check. In what could only be called a stroke of pure luck, he found a Scoped .44 Magnum inside. Alas, he had no ammo for the powerful handgun, but that was okay - it was in pretty rough shape as it was.

It wasn't long before Mike reached the gates of Megaton - cobbled together from all manner of refuse, including sheet metal, airplane parts, and cables, Mike was amazed the place didn't just fall apart. Off to one side, though, he noticed a beggar.

"Please...please help me!" the man pleaded. "I need water, please!"
"Will any water do?" Mike asked.
"I've been drinking this irradiated sh!t, and...I can't do it any more, I just throw it up now. I need purified water...please..."
Mike smiled, and reached into his bag, pulling out a bottle he snagged when he left the Vault. "Here," he said, "have some of mine."

The man was clearly shocked, eyes widening. "You mean...I can just have it? I-I can't give you anything in exchange, you know? I can just have it? For free?"
Mike's smile broadened, nodding. "I insist, my friend," he replied, warmly. "It's the least I can do."
The man's expression was worth more than anything money could ever buy. "My...thank you. Thank you so much. You've saved my life, bless you."

Mike got up, satisfied in the knowledge he had made one person's day, and headed through Megaton's gates.

"I'll be damned," he heard someone say. "Another newcomer!"

The source of the voice was the man who was walking up to him.

"Name's Lucas Simms," the fellow said, "local sheriff and mayor, when the need calls for it."
"I don't know why," Simms said, expression brightening, "but I like you, boy! I think you'll do just fine here."
"Thanks for the welcome, sheriff," Mike said, shaking Simms' hand firmly. "Nice little town you got here."
"Friendly AND well-mannered?" Simms said, astonished. "I think we'll get along just fine, so long as you keep out of trouble."
"Right, message received," Mike said, nodding.
"I'm glad we understand each other," Simms replied with a warm smile. "Now, what can I do for you?"
"Well, kind of a stupid question, but, uh...why's the town called 'Megaton?'" he asked, sheepishly.
"The town's named after the undetonated bomb in the center of town. It hasn't gone off...yet."

Mike didn't make any clear indication of it, but the fact that an undetonated nuke was in the middle of the town had alarm bells ringing. He'd just have to keep it in mind that any time he visited this town, it could well be his last.

MIKE: "Huh. I see. Well, let's change the subject."
LUCAS: "Alright, what's on your mind?"
MIKE: "Well, another sort of stupid question - I found some Nuka-Cola Bottle Caps in a safe in the ruins of Springvale, and I have to ask - what's the deal?"
LUCAS: "Well, caps are just standard fare here in the Wasteland - they're used to buy goods, weapons - basically, whatever suits your fancy."
MIKE: "Really? Well, with that said, you guys have a place for repairing or buying weapons? I found a magnum that's in pretty rough shape."
LUCAS: "Moira runs Craterside Supply in town. She could give you a hand with repairing your weapons or getting new ones. Makes some weapons, too, I've heard."
MIKE: "Cool. A couple more questions, and then I'll leave you be."
LUCAS: "Sure thing. What's on your mind?"
MIKE: "What can you tell me about the landscape surrounding Megaton?"

Lucas smirked. "It's called 'The Wasteland' for a reason, you know. You can find settlements scattered all over the place - humanity's stubborn like that. To the South, you'll find Rivet City, but I'd suggest you stay away from DC - the place is a warzone."
"Good to know," Mike said, noting that Rivet City's location was placed on his map. "Well, one last question. I know you probably have your hands full, but I'm looking for my father - middle-aged guy; you seen anyone like him?"
"Nope, sorry," Lucas answered, "I got enough trouble trying to put out fires all over the place, and I can't really keep track of everyone who comes here. I'd ask around town."
"I understand," Mike replied. "Well, see you later, Lucas."
"You, too. And you stay out of trouble, y'hear?"
"I will, don't worry," Mike said.

Mike trudged down towards the crater's epicenter, noting the nuke half-buried in a puddle of water. He also saw a preacher of sorts, spouting stuff like "bathing in Atom's glow" and the like. Off to his right, he noticed "Craterside Supply" scrawled over a door. Maybe Moira had some info he needed.

As he walked up the ramps to the store, he glanced back at the nuke. Something in his bones told him that bomb wasn't going to stay inactive forever, but he didn't feel very confident in his experience with explosives to do anything about it. Until then, all he could do was cross his fingers, and hope he wasn't vaporized.

He grasped the store door, and headed inside.

THE WASTELAND SURVIVAL GUIDE

MEGATON
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1031 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.

Mike walked into Craterside Supply's dusty interior to find a place that, for the most part, was fairly well-kept. Just off to his right stood Moira, who noticed the boy as he walked in.

"Hey! You're that stray from the Vault!" she said, cheerily. "Oh, I haven't seen one of you in years!"
"Yep, that's me," Mike said. "Name's Michael, or Mike, if you prefer," he continued, sticking out his hand for a handshake. "Good to meet you!" Moira replied, shaking his hand. "I'm Moira Brown. I sell and repair goods here, but mainly what I do is tinkering and research."

Research, eh? Mike thought to himself. On what, I wonder?

"Say, I'm working on a book I'm writing, and I'd love to have the foreword by a Vault Dweller - help me out, would you?"
"Sure," Mike said, his face lighting up. "I'd love to tell about my experience in the Vault."
"Great! Now, tell me what it's like living in there, or coming out for the first time, or, whatever suits your fancy!"
"Well, it was rather peaceful down there - no fights, no worries - until dad left, anyway."
"A runaway dad, huh? I've seen plenty of those in my day - none of them with a big "101" on their back, though. That'll be great for the beginning of the book."

I guess that scratches her off the list of people who might know where dad is, Mike thought to himself.

"Here," Moira continued, handing Mike the Armored Vault Suit, "take this as thanks. Although, as long as you're here, would you mind helping me with the book?"
"I gotta say, you got me interested, Moira. What's it about, exactly?"
"Well," Moira began, "it's a harsh world out there, you know? So, everyone could use a book to help them out there, like a Wasteland Survival Guide! It wouldn't be good if people got hurt because of the book, of course. No...then they just yell a lot. At me. With mean, mean words. So, what do you say? Wanna help?"

Mike didn't need a second to consider her offer. "Sounds like a great way to help the people of the wastes, Moira. I say, why not start now?"
"Good enthusiasm!" Moira complimented. "Now, the first chapter will be about surviving in the Wasteland. Y'know, where it is or isn't safe to find food, what to do with radiation, and how to avoid, and even profit from, landmines. So, what first?"

Mike sat there a moment, hand on his chin. Radiation seemed the most straightforward - in fact, it might allow him a chance to explore the wastes a bit.

"What's this about radiation, Moira?"
"Well, that's what I need your help with, isn't it?" she stated. "I know lots about it from reading books, but I never seem to get a live sample...well, not for long anyway. So, I just need you to get irradiated for my studies."

Mike's eyes widened, slightly shocked. Did he just hear what he thought he just heard?

"Oh, not a lethal amount, of course! I can fix you up before that. And I wouldn't ask you if I knew I couldn't, otherwise!"
"Well...alright. I guess I'll get irradiated - just be ready to fix me up when I get back."
"Oh, you're a peach! Or, at least, some sort of hardy fruit that exists in the foul mockery of agriculture we have these days. Now, 200 rads should be enough for basic information, but if you can get 600 rads or higher, my readings will be even more precise!"
"Well, as long as I'm here, Moira, I've got some stuff to offload - and maybe I could get a few things from you, as well. Can I see what you've got?"
"Sure thing!"

Mike traded away some of the heavier stuff he had - a piece of Vault Security Armor, a 10mm pistol that wasn't in as good condition as the one Amata had given him, all the pre-war money he had, and a sensor module or two that he'd picked up in his escape. In exchange, he noticed Moira had some .44 Magnum ammo, which he snagged all of, and he also nabbed a stimpack or two. It wasn't cheap, but what he sold just about covered what he bought. After that, he waved goodbye to Moira, and headed out.

Now, then, he thought to himself, how will I acquire 600 rads while getting something done?

He checked out his World Map. Rivet City was a fair distance away, and probably the best way to get there would be to swim the Potomac - there was a good chance that by the time he got to Rivet City, he'd be thoroughly irradiated. And if he hadn't met the 600 rads, he could always drink the Potomac's water until the condition was satisfied - and he'd heal himself somewhat in the process.

He headed up towards the main gate, and set his map marker for Rivet City.

THE RIVET CITY RUN, PT I

MEGATON ENTRANCE
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1043 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.

Mike made his way down to Springvale Ruins once more as he prepared for his long swim of the Potomac. Though the shortest route to any destination was a straight line, Mike knew that said line was probably strewn with obstructions. At least going North first would ensure he had a clear path.

As he neared Springvale Elementary (or what was left of it, rather), he noticed that his HUD displayed a small bar with an arrow over it. It slowly moved more to the right, with the words "10 XP" hovering above it. Though the matter intrigued him, Mike decided to save the enigma for another day - right now, he had other things to worry about.

(BANG!)

...Like staying alive, for instance.

"Come on, boys! FRESH MEAT!" a man shouted.

Mike had come face-to-face with his first Raider band. It was a little discomforting to know that such barbarism was in such close proximity to a settlement like Megaton. But then, in a world that got nuked to Hell and back again, such a thing probably shouldn't have been surprising.

A .32 caliber round nicked his shoulder as he dove behind a rock for cover. Mike wasn't sure if he could stand up to these ruffians, but he could at least try to wait it out until they left.

He glanced off to the North. The cliff face was so close - it couldn't have been more than 100 feet away from him. When the fighting had died down, he'd make a run for it, and slowly make his way down the cliff - no sense in getting any more injured than necessary.

However, Mike could hear the Raider approaching his position. He readied his pistol, knowing that he could well have to fight his way out. It wasn't long before the Raider's head peered out from behind the rock covering.

Mike quickly engaged VATS, and focused all attention at the raider's head - the more shots, the better. 2 rounds burrowed into their target, but the last shot missed. However, the Raider was weak enough that another quick volley put him down for good.

Mike searched his body for anything of use. Ammo, of course, was always handy. The .32 pistol, though, served little purpose except maybe for some extra caps. He pocketed it, and the Raider's Painspike Armor for these reasons. He didn't need them, anyway. By and far, the most important item, though, was a stimpack he found on the corpse. He used it straight away to heal himself of some damage he took. It didn't make him 100% better, but it was close enough.

Having grabbed everything of worth, Mike quickly made for the cliff, and carefully jumped his way down to the water. As he expected, it was irradiated - but at the rate it was going, he could probably swim the whole distance of the river and still not be irradiated enough.

Well, he thought to himself, I can always drink it.

Interestingly, a radio signal he picked up earlier, that of Galaxy News, was coming in a bit more clearly now. He decided to turn it on, catching it at the start of "Happy Times." It was good to hear something other than the eerie silence of the Wasteland for a change.

He oriented himself to the Southeast, and started swimming, singing as he went along.

"'Wish on the moooon...'"

THE RIVET CITY RUN, PT II

SPRINGVALE ELEMENTARY
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1103 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.

The journey started off rather well. The large amounts of soil, upturned from the war, no doubt, had created several areas of the Potomac where there was shallow water, and in some cases, completely dry land. The only threats were the odd mole rat or bloatfly that Mike occasionally encountered and subsequently dealt with.

It wasn't long, however, when the first real threat turned up - a Mirelurk. Giant, mutated crustaceans, no doubt "evolved," so to speak, from crabs, these clawed fiends were bothersome, to say the least. Thankfully, there was only the one, but it was clear that, like crabs, the Mirelurk's hardened carapace protected it from almost all forms of attack, excepting the face. By the end of the fight, Mike was considerably worse for wear, but instead of breaking out a stimpack, he decided to drink some of the irradiated water of the Potomac.

As he finished his drink, the last notes of "Civilization" ended, quickly changing to a broadcast.

"Heeelllooooo, Capital Wasteland! This is Three Dog! AWOOO!!! Comin' to you loud and proud from Galaxy News Radio!"

This Three Dog character sounded rather intriguing, Mike thought. And he certainly sounded like quite the lively fellow to boot.

"And heeere's ME! Ha ha ha! With the news," he continued. "North of the town of Megaton, there's this Vault, called Vault 101."

Wait a minute, Mike thought to himself. WHAT did he just say?

"And guess what? This one still has people in it! And it just so happens that one of them came to visit yours truly at Galaxy News."

Dad!

"But if a lightbulb just turned on, you can turn it back off. Whatever you're selling, they're not interested. And don't think about beating down the door, either - it weighs like, thirteen tons or something. Thanks for listening, children! This is Three Dog, AWOOO!!! And you're listening to Galaxy News Radio! Bringing you the Truth - no matter how bad it hurts."

Well, now Mike had a destination in mind for finding his dad: Galaxy News. But seeing as he had no idea how to get there, maybe once he reached Rivet City he could find out.

"And now, some music. It's Roy Brown, singing about that 'Mighty, Mighty Man.'"

Onward he swam, with newfound vigor.

Dad, I just pray you're alright...

THE RIVET CITY RUN, PT III

SOUTHERN POTOMAC RIVER
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1421 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.

When Mike first set out for Rivet City, he knew that no route he took would be completely safe. He just didn't know how perilous it would be.

That factor became alarmingly clear as he neared Wilhelm's Wharf. On its banks, Raiders were found to be engaging brutish, humanoid creatures with a sickly yellow-green skin. It was here that Mike first became aware of the Super Mutants. Rather than get involved in the fight, Mike dove under the surface of the water for brief periods. Though it was horribly cliched, it was a valid tactic for dodging the rifle and minigun fire that was exchanged between both himself and the parties involved.

Upon reaching the wharf, his HUD suddenly addressed him with the following note:

"You have discovered several locations. Fast travel is now enabled."

That had to mean that little module that was attached to his Pip-Boy. Considering that he'd lived in the Vault his entire life, he never saw it used. But there was no time to dally - the Geiger Counter's clicking reminded him that he needed to get to his destination as quickly as possible. He'd long since passed the minimum requirement for Moira's research, but he didn't want to just pass - he wanted to pass with flying colors.

He continued onward, swimming under shattered bridges and past the Anchorage War Memorial. Mike swam mainly on the Southern side of the River - the Northern bank was populated by Raiders, Super Mutants, and whatever else DC had to offer. Considering how lightly-armed he was at this point, it would have only been an exercise in suicide.

The sun was beginning to slip below the horizon when Mike had reached a bridge with numerous pipes underneath. Interestingly, though, it was completely intact, and virtually undamaged - a rarity, given his surroundings.

Mike looked over to see that he had reached the Jefferson Memorial, overrun with Super Mutants. Rather than head onto dry land and risk a fight, he circled around the backside of the monument. He noted that the Memorial seemed to have become a pumping facility of some sort, judging from the massive amount of pipeline that fed into the river. What purpose it was for, though, would have to be determined later.

Indeed, as he looked to the East, there was a sight that was much more demanding. A massive steel hulk, rusting from centuries of disuse, now sat before him. However, it was far from being uninhabited - the number of lights from the structure clearly disproved that. There was no question in Mike's mind where he was.

"Rivet City, here I come!" he said, as he got out of the water.